This is Johan writing and I would like to share with you my Indian hospital experience and update you on my recovery. I got operated one week ago and my knee is healing fine. For those who are interested in details, during the arthroscopy approximately 12% of my medial meniscus has been removed. I don’t have any pain so far, which is a quite new experience for me after having cycled two months and 3,200 km with a torn meniscus. Three times per day I am doing the exercises I got from the physiotherapist and in two weeks from now I should be able to cycle and run again as before.
Getting into hospital has been quite an experience. We ended up in the Medanta hospital after visiting the Dutch Embassy who we asked for advice. The hospital is a 1.5 hours taxi drive from the center and we expected to arrive in a modern and well-developed area. But we couldn’t be more wrong: the first thing we saw when we left the highway were slums where people lived in tents, dirty sand roads full of very poor people, big apartment blocks, construction sites, garbage everywhere and hundreds of pigs and dogs looking for food.
A few blocks further the Medanta hospital thankfully looked much more modern, a huge, white 14-story building. According to their website it’s ‘India‘s largest multi-super specialty institute’ (I did not make this up, that’s their description!). A hospital with 45 operating theaters and 1,250 beds. The main entrance and the reception area were packed with at least 1,000 people, incredible again and overwhelming! They were mainly Indians but we could also spot international patients from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Africa (we found out their nationalities later, except for the Africans: people did not have their nationalities written on their foreheads, just in case you wondered). I guess we were the only two whities. Seeing this crowd I thought we would never ever get to see a doctor today or within the next two weeks.
And again, we couldn’t be more wrong: At the information desk we were sent to the bone & joint department on the 6th floor. From the 6th floor reception we were sent to an admin clerk who sent us back to the reception with a doctor’s name where I had to pay the admission fee, then back again to the admin clerk who made sure I could see the doctor within the next 10 minutes. This doctor finally confirmed the diagnosis and gave me two options: physiotherapy and the risk that my knee might lock at any given time in the middle of the Rajasthan desert or wherever we are at that given moment or arthroscopy. On my question when I could be operated the doctor answered: “As you like. Tomorrow? Or the day after tomorrow?” And within one hour we were out of this hospital again, had an appointment to meet the surgeon the other day, another one for my operation and met with a guy who showed us the nearby guesthouse where we would stay the coming days.
While we were waiting we saw some newspaper articles and thank-you-letters from patients getting operated by my surgeon Dr. Ashok Rajgopal posted on a whiteboard. We learned that he is in the Limca Book of Records (the Indian version of the Guiness Book of Records) for conducting 30 successful knee replacement surgeries in 12 hours. I am quite glad I wasn’t number 30 that day.
When we met Dr. Miracle (his name in the newspaper article) the next day we felt very confident and in good hands, given his experience and professionalism. He spoke fluent and understandable English, did part of his education in Liverpool and Edinburgh and even visited the Floriade in Holland several times (isn’t the latter enough proof of his professionalism?!?).
On D-day we arrived at the hospital at 7.30am. First thing I had to do was to pay for the operation and admission. I was told by the first doctor who saw me that the operation would cost about 70,000 INR (EUR 1,000). I went to the admission desk – at this time of the day only one clerk was available – and had to wait because a patient from Iraq was busy paying his treatment in cash. It must have been a very expensive operation as he had plastic bags full with piles of banknotes, which of course all had to be counted. Thanks to the ‘no-privacy-policy’ we could peer over his shoulder and watch the counting process from very close by. When it was my turn to pay, the clerk told me to pay USD 2,500. I told him that this was 2,5 times more than what we were told before. The clerk then asked me how much I would like to pay. I looked quite puzzled at him thinking ‘why the heck do I have to tell him what the price for the operation would be?‘ After a few forth’s and back’s I gave him the price I was told before, paid and went off with a guide to the sixth floor.
In the Medanta, you get a super service for the money you pay. Not less than 37 different nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, dietitians and what-have-you visited my bedside. I had chosen a shared room, but within 30 minutes I had the room for myself. I am sure I got a special treatment as a European.
Two hours before the operation I doubted again if I made the right decision when I was asked by a nurse for how many years I had pain in my right shoulder.
While I got operated Baerbel waited for me in my room to enjoy room service from a super friendly boy with a smile all over his face who first introduced and then excused himself for not speaking English so well. He told Baerbel that he would serve food and since we come from abroad, Baerbel would get served as well.
“You like tea or coffee?”
“Tea would be great, thank you.”
“Or better take coffee.”
“No thank you, tea would be great.”
“No, better take coffee.”
“Ok, then bring me a coffee, fine as well.”
10 minutes later he arrived with a big smile on his face and a tray with a thermos of water, Nescafe and tea.
“Misses, I have tea and coffee, you want tea?”
“Great, yes please, I take tea.”
“I make you coffee, better drink coffee”.
Despite the tea and coffee confusion Baerbel fell in love with this boy and his genuine smile on his face each time he entered the room or when we met him on the floor.
The service in the hospital was really superb. But I had no time to rest or sleep after the operation, nothing different from European hospitals. One after the other nurse appeared at my bedside: to take my temperature, to check the blankets (no, I didn’t pee nor poo on them yet), to check my B.P. (blood pressure), to bring some pills, then to count the pills, to check the I.V., to bring a cold pack, to tell me that the food will arrive in five minutes and 20 minutes later that it will definitely soon arrive, to bring some water, to clean the floor and to discuss things like below:
“Hello Sir, do you have pain?”
“No I don’t have any pain.”
“Here pill against the pain.”
“But I don’t have pain.”
“Better you take pill.”
“But I don’t have pain, so why do I have to take this pill.”
“Better you take it.”
“Why, I don’t have any pain?”
“Pill against pain.”
“Does the doctor want me to take the pill?”
“No but against pain.”
“I will take this pill when I get pain, ok?”
But I really enjoyed my stay in the hospital. Compared to the guesthouses we are staying this was like a 5 star hotel.
I left the hospital on Saturday morning with an ambulance (Indian version, they had to crawl over my bed to be able to close the door), while our guesthouse is only 200 meters opposite the hospital.
We are now sharing our floor and kitchen with three other families who are patients from the same hospital. An Indian family of which the father had a by-pass operation, a mother and son from Uzbekistan of which the mother also had heart surgery and two brothers from Iraq of which one had a tumor removed from his head. So compared to this my knee is just a minor injury.
Many thanks again for all your very nice emails and warm wishes for a speedy recovery. My knee is heeling well and we can’t wait to continue our bike journey in hopefully two weeks from now.